Clausewitz Book V: In Support of War, Now and Then

Book five was perhaps the most difficult read for me thus far. Clausewitz appears to pause here in his flow of ideas to concentrate on the apocrypha of war. It is in these pages that he gives us his view of how the supporting operations should be conducted, as well as considerations for placement, movement, and troop strengths. Application of most of Clausewitz’ points to modern day is extremely difficult and in most cases takes a good deal of abstract thinking.

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Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

Going into book IV I expected to receive a lesson in general tactics. This is not the case. Instead what Clausewitz has in store for us is a discussion of the engagement as an extension of strategy, a sort of demonstration of applied theory. Modernists and critics would be quick to site this book when attempting to prove Clausewitz’ irrelevance to current warfare, citing ideas that may appear at first glance to be relics of earlier generations of warfare.

Clausewitz sites rough terrain and night as being two factors that can impede military operations to the point of bringing them to a halt. In the case of night operations especially, Clausewitz shows great concern, stating that only in the most extreme cases are operations at night warranted due to the lack of control that brings with it a high probability of failure (p. 273-275).

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Clausewitz, On War, Book 3: The Shape of a Strategic Force.

In book three, Clausewitz gives us a breakdown of his theory of strategy. Early on, he roughly defines strategy as “the use of engagement for the purpose of war” (p. 177). By this Clausewitz is telling us that the individual engagements are the means to the end, and the strategist must therefore understand how to apply the individual engagements to achieve the desired goal. It is a high level view of the overall theater of operations, while tactics concerns its self with actions inside the individual engagement.

Clausewitz goes on to divide the factors involved in strategy in to five general categories, focusing mainly on the ideas of the moral or psychological, and the physical. While he briefly mentions the other elements, mathematical, geographical and statistical, his main point in these areas is that they have little effect on the outcome at a strategic level.

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Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: A Question

I know this is a bit late, and if I missed the answer in someone else’s post, I’m sorry for bringing it up again. It’s a minor point perhaps, but on page 143 Clausewitz states that both time of day and weather are of minor importance in the engagement. This runs counter to what intuition would suggest. Can someone explain to me why Clausewitz says this is so?

Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

In book II, Clausewitz goes into great detail about the formation and application of theory. While he espouses little actual theory here, he does hammer home one extremely important idea.

The most prominent point, in my mind, is that there is no one-size fits-all solution. Clausewitz discusses the use of “routine“ as necessary for ancillary functions and training, as it provides basic knowledge on a tactical level for troops in the field, and provide the junior officer with “brisk, precise, and reliable leadership, reducing natural friction and easing the working of the machine” (p. 153).

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